/ Technology

Our digital camera viewfinder campaign continues…

The viewfinder leaflet we sent to manufacturers

When we first asked whether you wanted viewfinders back on digital cameras, we didn’t expect such a resounding response. So we’ve built a ‘viewfinder campaign’ and taken your comments to the manufacturers.

When our camera expert Rich Parris wrote about his longing for the return of the good ‘old-fashioned’ viewfinder back in August, at best he presumed a trickling of support.

But instead of silent nods and quiet ambivalence, his Conversation received a flood of encouragement – we’ve had over 200 comments so far!

To this day Rich’s ‘bring back the viewfinder‘ Convo has provoked more public support than any other issue we’ve written about. And I don’t know of any other that has so many ‘thumbs up’ and not one ‘thumb down’.

Bring back the viewfinder

Manufactures have seemingly discarded the viewfinder in favour of outdoing each other with ever more compact digital cameras. It’s now so hard to track down a compact camera with a viewfinder, that you’re basically limited to buying a chunky and expensive SLR. And you quite decisively want them back:

‘I have never owned and will never buy any camera for personal use that does not have a viewfinder… period!’ asserts Sue Jenner. Peter Jones agrees, ‘I’ve been holding off buying a new compact camera for nearly two years because I can’t find a suitable one with a viewfinder’.

And Roger B rounds it off quite nicely, ‘The viewfinder is the first thing I try when buying a camera. No viewfinder, no sale.’

At the same time, Rich was surveying Which? members. Of the 1,667 asked 70% said they struggled to use an LCD camera screen in bright daylight, and of those who didn’t own a camera with a viewfinder, 60% said they’d find it much easier to take photos if they did.

Support our viewfinder campaign

So armed with these survey results and your hundreds of Which? Convo comments, we’ve taken this issue to the manufacturers. A gleaming pamphlet stuffed with some of your comments (pictured below) was created and sent to all the major camera manufactures – including Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Fuji, Olympus, Casio and Nikon.

Your comments on our viewfinder pamphletOne page of our viewfinder pamphlet with comments from BBSlowcoach, Tom Pyne and Liz C.

We’re currently awaiting a response from each of the camera makers (and prodding along the way) so fingers crossed the humble viewfinder will make a significant return.

We’ll bring you their responses in the near future, but if you support our viewfinder campaign, sound off below and help us badger manufacturers to bring them back.

Update 29 March 2011: Five of the big camera manufacturers have now responded to our campaign to bring back viewfinders to compact digital cameras! You can hear from Canon and Olympus in this Conversation, with Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm having their say here. Are you happy with their responses?

Comments

My Nikon Coolpix 4300 has a very small screen by today’s standards plus an eye-level viewfinder which shows a very approximate, undersized field. I seldom use the screen and I can live with the inaccurate viewfinder because it is so easy to crop the picture during subsequent editing. I would llike to upgrade to a camera with image stabilization and a larger optical zoom range but I cannot do without the viewfinder.

Les1397 says:
18 January 2011

Wife wanted to replace her camers. went to PC World only to find all the cameras that she liked had no VIEW FINDER, so she is keeping her old one. ONE LOST SALE.

Thanks Les, I think that sums the situation up perfectly – there’s plenty of us out there who WANT to buy a new camera, but refuse to part with our money if the product isn’t suitable!

Manufacturers are fond of telling us how much they ‘listen’ to their customers. It will be interesting to see just how quickly they respond to the increasing demand for viewfinders on cameras. Yes, I miss the viewfinder and will make it the first feature to look for on my next camera.

It was a terrible mistake to buy a camera without a view finder. Even in this country when it is fine weather, it is impossible to properly adjust the camera to point at the best view, because it can’t be seen clearly and then however steady one’s hand there is always going to be some slight shake. Abroad in tropical sunlight, the view is usually impossible to see however big the screen, so one has to just point, shoot in the general direction and hope for the best. It takes all the pleasure from composing a really good shot, not all of us want to just take snaps.
Please, please bring back the view finder. I have a really good Panasonic camera, but am limited in taking decent photographs in dull light. Where’s the joy in that?

Dave says:
18 January 2011

They have done it with camcorders too. Try racking a moving person in bright sunlight – its hopeless.

Ken Kite says:
18 January 2011

Hear, hear or aye, aye. I am still using an older viewfinder digital compact Canon which I bought when I realised viewfinders were disappearing, I rarely take shots with the LCD screen, I prefer to point at the subject directly and shoot it, not just image it.

John Russell says:
18 January 2011

Apart from providing a much steadier support for the camera by holding it to ones face when looking through a viewfinder, the subject is seen separated from the rest of the world and framing and composition are much easier to control.

Anthony says:
18 January 2011

I sold cameras for nearly 40 years and can promise you that the designers dictate what will be in the shops. The consumer really doesn`t have a say in it whatever you may think. The reason viewfinders have gone is cost. The less moving parts in a product the easier it is to produce and less likely to get returns. In my opinion if a camera does not have a viewfinder ( and I don`t call electronic viewfinders proper viewfinders ) it is little more than a fancy phone.
P.S. Why do they have to be so stupidly small? Oh yes of course, cost!

I found it frustrating enough not being able to select Macro on my camera in bright sunlight using the screen when I wanted to snap some unusual rock plants in an exposed coastal spot. If the camera had no proper viewfinder I wouldn’t have had the vaguest idea what I was snapping at that location. I won’t buy a replacement camera until I can get one with some sort of viewfinder.

Derek Rogers says:
18 January 2011

I am not bothering to replace my 8 year old Pentax compact camera – as I find it difficult to find one with a viewfinder. LCD’s are no good in the bright light – just forget them.

I have an Olympus SP-500U7 which does have a view finder and in the summer months when you just cannot see the screen it is invaluable.I thoroughly support you campaign that all cameras should be fitted with viewfinders.

Mike Stephenson says:
19 January 2011

There are times when a viewfinder is a necessity and even an optical finder would be better than non at all. I have an old Canon Ixus with an optical view finder that I carry “just in case” but I would be much happier using a single modern camera – with a view finder!

Henry says:
19 January 2011

I have an IXUS 40 which works well and has vievfinder an essental feature.

Anthony Wood says:
19 January 2011

I bought a Canon IXUS 95 because it had a viewfinder and find it so much easier to arrange my shots. When I bought it the salesman said he could not understand why it was being deleted from the catalogue because so many customers asked for a compact with a viewfinder. I wouldn’t be without it now.

Thanks Anthony – you’re not on your own, plenty of people seem to be tracking down slightly older models like this one because they feature viewfinders, rather than going for the latest models without them

I took Which? advise when buying a digital camera and bought a Canon with Viewfinder. I would never buy a camera without a Viewfinder. I know people who have and they all regret it. It looks so easy to use the screen but it is never better than using a viewfinder!

I buy fuji because it has a viewfinder, the only way in bright daylight to take a photo, plus you look less of a dork staring cross eyed at a screen 12 inches from your face. Its also a bad position to hold a camera in low light, no stability, it needs to be tight and arms locked.

I need reading glasses, Fuji has a dioptre in the viewfinder and I need to glasses to use use it, otherwise it would be specs on to take a photo, specs off to see the subject.

Real photographers use viewfinders (and eat porridge of course)

Richard W says:
19 January 2011

I have three ‘compact’ digital cameras; my most recent is the Canon PowerShot A540. They all have viewfinders, because I avoided ones without. Further, I have only recommended this kind to others, particularly my four children (with success!).

Mike Howard says:
19 January 2011

My wife has limited vision in one eye and could not find
any satisfaction in using the Panasonic compact camera in either moderate sunshine or snow conditions due to the absence of a view finder. I had to buy a second hand Olympus camera with a view finder to enable her to contiue using a camera.

Sans Culottes says:
19 January 2011

In very bright or very dark conditions an LCD screen is useless: I’m shooting “blind”.
If I want an optical viewfinder I must buy an expensive and bulky SLR. But many airlines insist that such items are packed in my luggage. So now, if I want to take the camera on holidays and not pay extra for checked-in luggage, I must make room for the camera in my hand-luggage by leaving my underpants behind.
Look … just bring back the viewfinder.

I passed up on the offer of a new camera for Christmas (to replace my 4mp Finepix) because I wanted one with a viewfinder. I spent some time ploughing through the Which? report and found none with a viewfinder which suited my requirements. I thought it must have been a function of my age which dictated my dislike of new technology, not my 40-odd years of picture-taking experience, so I am so pleased that I am not alone! (I agree also with those in another thread who query the value of touchscreen-only controls).
The advantages and disadvantages of both viewfinders and screens are mentioned by others here so I won’t repeat them, but wanted to add my support for this issue.
The comment from a former retailer is disheartening, though, that the manufacturers will continue to do as they wish, cutting costs and designing for fashion and desirability rather than utility as the bulk market becomes increasingly expectant of more whizz-bang technology. This of course at the expense of those who, like me, still see the occasional value of the mechanical over the electronic. I will now pay more attention to the task of finding a suitable digital replacement for my much-loved Canon EOS 620 before DSLRs too suffer the same fate. Thank you!